Report Of 5 Taluk-level Workshops For Bengaluru Rural District – Decentralised Governance Of Lakes And Other Water Commons 

Decentralised Governance of Lakes and other Water Commons

held during 10th – 20th June 2022 

co-organised by 

Environment Support Group

&

Karnataka State Legal Services Authority

Coorganisers

District Legal Services Authority, Bengaluru Rural

 District Lake Protection Committee Bengaluru Rural District

Taluk Legal Services Committees (Bengaluru Rural District)

Lawyers Associations of all Taluks (Bengaluru Rural District)

Introduction

The panel for the Doddaballapura workshop

Smt. Lakshmi H D, Sub-regional forest officer, Doddaballapura, Shri Muniraj, CEO, Town Panchayat, Doddaballapura, Shri. Prakriti Prasanna, President of Sustainable Environment Development Trust, Doddaballapura, Shri Leo F Saldanha, Coordinator/ Trustee, Environment Support Group, Shri. Sandeep Salian, Senior Civil Judge & Member Secretary, District Legal Services Authority, Bengaluru Rural & Member, Bengaluru Rural District Lake Protection Committee, Smt. Bhargavi S. Rao, Trustee, Environment Support Group. 

This workshop series was organised in 5 taluks of the Bengaluru Rural district to raise awareness of public officials and various local communities of directions of Karnataka High Court in WP 817/2008 (Environment Support Group Lakes PIL) on the protection and rehabilitation of keres (lakes), raja kaluves (canals), kuntes (ponds) and such other water commons.  These workshops were held in Doddaballapur on 10th June 2022, Devanahalli on 14th June 2022, Hoskote on 16th june 2022, Anekal on 17th June 2022 and the final workshop in Nelamangala on 20th June 2022. The event was jointly organised by Environment Support Group (ESG) Bengaluru, Karnataka State Legal Services Authority, District Legal Services Authority Bengaluru Rural District, District Lake Protection Committee Bengaluru Rural District, Taluk Legal Service Committee, and Lawyers Associations of the respective Taluks. 

Shri. Sandeep Salian, Senior Civil Judge & Member Secretary, District Legal Services Authority (Bengaluru Rural Dt.) & Member, Bengaluru Rural District Lake Protection Committee presided over all the workshops and senior officials from various local Taluk Panchayats and other Governmental agencies participated. Shri K. Srinivas, IAS, Deputy Commissioner (Bengaluru Rural district) graced and spoke in the Devanahalli workshop. Shri. Leo F Saldanha, Coordinator/ Trustee, Environment Support Group, Bengaluru and Smt. Bhargavi S Rao, Senior Fellow and Trustee, Environment Support Group, Bengaluru led these workshops as resource persons. Participants in these workshops included officials from Panchayats & Nagarpalikas of every Taluk, representatives of farmers movements and various civil society organisations, representatives from women’s self-help groups and anganwadi workers, representatives of the media, academia, etc.

Key messages of Justice Shri. Sandeep Salian

Shri.Sandeep Salian

All workshops began with Shri. Sandeep Salian making a call for action and delving into the realities of lakes in respective taluks. He reinforced the responsibility that citizens have to protect the environment as a Fundamental Duty is cast on them as per Article 51 A(g) of the Constitution of India, which he said is sacrosanct. Officials were similarly required to act to protect natural resources and public commons as per Article 48 A.  

In Doddaballapur, for instance, Shri. Salian pointed out to beer bottles carelessly discarded in lakes along with waste from various religious ceremonies were indicative of a moral crisis – be it in fun, or when involved in devotion, we have become uncaring of the impacts of our actions and its implications for nature. Blaming the government for lack of effective management of lakes, when public behaviour is so wanton, is an alarming indication of our collective neglect of our commons. He emphasised lakes can only be protected when the public and the government works together.

  In all of his addresses, Shri. Salian called for a movement to protect lakes from encroachment and pollution, public involvement in cleaning lakes and keeping them clean and a collective effort in tackling land grabbing. He pointed out how in a lake in Devanahalli Taluk a burial ground was allowed inside a lake and requested the Bengaluru Rural District Commissioner Shri. K. Srinivas who was present to take action against this encroachment. 

In the Anekal and the Nelamangala workshops, Shri. Salian asked Panchayat Development Officers (PDO) to report on the status of lakes within their jurisdiction. He urged them to also produce written reports on the finances raised and used for lake rejuvenation along with action plans for every lake rehabilitation. He assured them that the District Legal Service Authority (DLSA) will be accessible to each and every one of them in their efforts to facilitate and accelerate the process of lake protection, including attending to any interference against public interest in their work. But he also cautioned them that they would be held personally accountable for their roles in securing these precious water commons for posterity.

Background to ESG PIL advancing decentralised governance of water commons of Karnataka

Smt. Bhargavi Rao

Smt, Bhargavi Rao provided a broad historical overview of ESG’s Public Interest litigation (PIL) (WP 817/2008).  She shared how Hebbal, Nagawara, Agara and Vengaiah kere lakes, were privatised by the then Lake Development Authority in despite public protests and demand that lakes are public commons and the government should not be privatising them.

 

She also recounted the role of birdwatchers in monitoring the lakes and how they brought the issue of privatisation to the attention of the public and to ESG. she recalled the many public events such as the candle light vigil, the human chain formation and more around Hebbal and Agara lakes by the public mobilised by ESG to save the lakes from being privatised.Smt. Rao explained the Government’s decision was based on the claim that necessary funds to maintain lakes were not available with it, and so transferred this responsibility to private players. It seemed as though anyone who came to take a lake, got one.  

She shared how the massive Hebbal lake was given to M/s Oberoi group of hotel, while the equally large Agara lake in Koramangala was given to an unknown company, M/s Biota. ESG built awareness in people around the lake, and across the city, to the consequences of such privatisation of commons, and the fact that it is unconstitutional. Already, Nagawara lake had been privatised and turned into a water theme park with restrictive entrance fees being imposed to get into the lake. And then there were all sorts of pay and use entertainments, and such commercialisation combined resulted in destruction of the biodiversity of the lake. She explained the terrible consequences of how privatisation would have deprived local communities from even sitting by the lake besides stripping them of access to traditional livelihoods such as fishing, grazing and washing of clothes such as that of the dhobis. She highlighted how spaces such as lakes are key for the well being of a community in addition to providing water and livelihood security. She also highlighted the non-perennial nature of the lakes that form a network sustaining lives and a variety of agro-pastoral livelihoods

 She also explained how these lakes, which are all built over time and seasonally fill up with water in the monsoon, play multiple roles, such as grazing pastures when they are dry in summer, and also as spaces for village fairs then. Such uses of the lake have been the norm for centuries and all this will be disrupted by privatisation. 

 She then elucidated how the matter was taken to Court when all other possibilities of dialogue and negotiation had failed in an effort to stop a dangerous and environmentally disastrous policy of privatising commons. “The government is only a custodian” of the commons and hence cannot trade away such commons to private players, she indicated. She drew attention to how the High Court had set up a committee headed by a sitting judge Justice N.K.Patil and how the committee visited several lakes before filing the recommendations to the court. She conveyed how the final High Court order in 2012 in the ESG Lakes PIL, had incorporated the recommendations verbatim developed by the Justice N K Patil Committee.   This report covered various aspects of lake governance, management and protection, in a nuanced manner, including focusing on how to tackle solid and liquid waste inflows, to remove encroachments ensuring the poor and marginalised are not evicted without resettlement, the use of constructed wetlands to treat sewage and also the importance of protecting traditional users and biodiversity. By the final order, Justice Patil Committee’s reports are binding.

In all of her interventions, Smt. Rao drew attention to how the health of lakes and kaluves was intricately linked to human health. For instance, she recalled her work in helping develop a vaccine for ROTA virus, a water borne infection that causes diarrhoea and is fatal to neonates. And wondered if this vaccine would at all be necessary if we ensured water everywhere was healthy and safe to consume.  She also drew attention to the amount of fresh water actually present on planet earth and how lakes form a significant part of the small portion of fresh water. In this way Smt Rao explained how it is absolutely essential to consider water as a continuum, the spring of life which when contaminated does impact life somewhere.  Which is why it is so crucial to collectively work to ensure our lakes, kuntes, kaluves and everywhere that water flows – on surface or below ground – is protected and from contamination.

 

Smt, Bhargavi Rao provided a broad historical overview of ESG’s Public Interest litigation(PIL) (WP 817/2008).  She shared how Hebbal, Nagawara, Agara and Vengaiah kere lakes, were privatised by the then Lake Development Authority in despite public protests and demand that lakes are public commons and the government should not be privatising them. 

She also recounted the role of birdwatchers in monitoring the lakes and how they brought the issue of privatisation to the attention of the public and to ESG. she recalled the many public events such as the candle light vigil, the human chain formation and more around Hebbal and Agara lakes by the public mobilised by ESG to save the lakes from being privatised.Smt. Rao explained the Government’s decision was based on the claim that necessary funds to maintain lakes were not available with it, and so transferred this responsibility to private players. It seemed as though anyone who came to take a lake, got one.  

She shared how the massive Hebbal lake was given to M/s Oberoi group of hotel, while the equally large Agara lake in Koramangala was given to an unknown company, M/s Biota. ESG built awareness in people around the lake, and across the city, to the consequences of such privatisation of commons, and the fact that it is unconstitutional. Already, Nagawara lake had been privatised and turned into a water theme park with restrictive entrance fees being imposed to get into the lake. And then there were all sorts of pay and use entertainments, and such commercialisation combined resulted in destruction of the biodiversity of the lake. She explained the terrible consequences of how privatisation would have deprived local communities from even sitting by the lake besides stripping them of access to traditional livelihoods such as fishing, grazing and washing of clothes such as that of the dhobis. She highlighted how spaces such as lakes are key for the well being of a community in addition to providing water and livelihood security. She also highlighted the non-perennial nature of the lakes that form a network sustaining lives and a variety of  agro-pastoral livelihoods.

 

 She also explained how these lakes, which are all built over time and seasonally fill up with water in the monsoon, play multiple roles, such as grazing pastures when they are dry in summer, and also as spaces for village fairs then. Such uses of the lake have been the norm for centuries and all this will be disrupted by privatisation. 

 She then elucidated how the matter was taken to Court when all other possibilities of dialogue and negotiation had failed in an effort to stop a dangerous and environmentally disastrous policy of privatising commons. “The government is only a custodian” of the commons and hence cannot trade away such commons to private players, she indicated. She drew attention to how the High Court had set up a committee headed by a sitting judge Justice N.K.Patil and how the committee visited several lakes before filing the recommendations to the court. She conveyed how the final High Court order in 2012 in the ESG Lakes PIL, had incorporated the recommendations verbatim developed by the Justice N K Patil Committee.   This report covered various aspects of lake governance, management and protection, in a nuanced manner, including focusing on how to tackle solid and liquid waste inflows, to remove encroachments ensuring the poor and marginalised are not evicted without resettlement, the use of constructed wetlands to treat sewage and also the importance of protecting traditional users and biodiversity. By the final order, Justice Patil Committee’s reports are binding.

In all of her interventions, Smt. Rao drew attention to how the health of lakes and kaluves was intricately linked to human health. For instance, she recalled her work in helping develop a vaccine for ROTA virus, a water borne infection that causes diarrhoea and is fatal to neonates. And wondered if this vaccine would at all be necessary if we ensured water everywhere was healthy and safe to consume.  She also drew attention to the amount of fresh water actually present on planet earth and how lakes form a significant part of the small portion of fresh water. In this way Smt Rao explained how it is absolutely essential to consider water as a continuum, the spring of life which when contaminated does impact life somewhere.  Which is why it is so crucial to collectively work to ensure our lakes, kuntes, kaluves and everywhere that water flows – on surface or below ground – is protected and from contamination. 

On using environmental jurisprudence, scientific knowledge and traditional wisdom in protecting and conserving Water Commons

The Panel for the Devanahalli Workshop

(L to R): Justice Shri. Sandeep Salian, Senior Civil Judge & Member Secretary, District Legal Services Authority (Bengaluru Rural Dt.) & Member, Bengaluru Rural District Lake Protection Committee, Shri. K Srinivasa, IAS, District Commissioner and Chairperson, district-level lake protection committee (Bengaluru Rural dt), Shri. Shivaraju, Tehsildar, Devanahalli, Shri. Vasant Kumar H.D, Executive Officer, Taluk Panchayat, Devanahalli, Shri. Leo F Saldanha and Smt. Bhargavi S. Rao.

Shri. Leo Saldanha in his interventions focused on explaining how the judicial orders and consequent administrative directions need to be implemented systematically, systemically and structurally to democratise governance of lakes and other such water commons across Karnataka. 

He drew attention of the audience to the fact that these water systems can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilisation (also known as Harappan civilisation), which flourished for almost two millennia 5-6000 years ago. During those times, the critical importance of protecting water wherever it flows, and of collective pure rain water, was understood so deeply, that over 130 cities survived by building irrigation tanks (now called lakes) and interconnecting them with canals, thus creating water landscapes that supported extensive urbanisation, farming and pastoral activities in what were predominantly arid zones fed by seasonal rivers.  And people then were careful to not allow used water to mix with drinking water, evident in separate channels built from the ruins discovered in the early 20th century in Mohenjodaro, Harappa, Dholavira, Rakhiganj, etc.  In fact, every house had toilets and septic tanks so that faecal contamination of drinking water was avoided.  

If we compare those ideas of planning and living to our settlements, Shri Saldanha said, it would be evident that we simply are not utilising the traditional knowledge and intelligence that has been handed down to us over the centuries to effectively tackle the stressful water situation we encounter almost everywhere. This is evident in how women and children (especially the girl child) stand in long and serpentine queues to fetch water from the village borewell or tanker, indicating patriarchal violence is endemic to our families, and also that the burden of dealing with water stresses is essentially that of the female gender.  

Large metropolises like Bengaluru try and escape the water stress by draw from faraway rivers: the Cauvery waters are picked up from 100kms away and over 500 metres elevation at great investment of money, human resources, energy and operations costs, and yet only half the city is supported. The rest of the population has to live off groundwater. And the reality is almost everywhere groundwater levels are falling rapidly, are also getting contaminated, and this presents a real threat to the sustenance of such a massive city and its 1.4 crore people. That in this highly stressed situation the city sends by water used in a highly polluted and poisonous state is a crime. But it is so widespread that it has been normalised.

He explained how when regulatory systems have failed to address this calamitous situation, efforts of local communities are critical. He shared examples of how Dalit Sangarsh Samithi led local communities of Mavallipura north of Bengaluru to resist Bruhat Bengaluru Mahangara Palike dumping the city’s waste in the village’s forest and commons. This resulted in a series of actions which eventually led to shutting down of two landfills, an effort that ESG supported consistently over two decades. A crucial determinant in this was that ESG assisted communities to tackle dumping of waste by utilising provisions of the Water (Prevention of Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and charging BBMP with a crime against local communities Fundamental Right to Life, Livelihood and to a Clean Environment. Afraid that if it did not act on this complaint Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) would be hauled up for dereliction of duty, the pollution regulator was forced to shut down these landfills.

Even though the landfills were shut down in 2012, the problem of pollution persists, said Shri. Saldanha.  And explained how two decades ago the milk standard by Karnataka Milk Federation was determined by the milk produced in Mavallipura, for so uncontaminated were the grazing pastures.  Now those commons have been turned toxic and this has forced farmers and pastoralists to sell off their livestock in distress as no one buys the milk. The leachates from these landfills flow out into the kaluves and into lakes, and eventually reach T. G. Halli dam built across Arkavathy river, from where parts of Bengaluru receive water. The cycle of contamination is completed as what is dumped in Mavallipura has found its way back as poisoned water into the city.  This is an unnecessary calamity we create with our neglect, he argued. 

He explained how when regulatory systems have failed to address this calamitous situation, efforts of local communities are critical. He shared examples of how Dalit Sangarsh Samithi led local communities of Mavallipura north of Bengaluru to resist Bruhat Bengaluru Mahangara Palike dumping the city’s waste in the village’s forest and commons. This resulted in a series of actions which eventually led to shutting down of two landfills, an effort that ESG supported consistently over two decades. A crucial determinant in this was that ESG assisted communities to tackle dumping of waste by utilising provisions of the Water (Prevention of Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and charging BBMP with a crime against local communities Fundamental Right to Life, Livelihood and to a Clean Environment. Afraid that if it did not act on this complaint Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) would be hauled up for dereliction of duty, the pollution regulator was forced to shut down these landfills.

Even though the landfills were shut down in 2012, the problem of pollution persists, said Shri. Saldanha.  And explained how two decades ago the milk standard by Karnataka Milk Federation was determined by the milk produced in Mavallipura, for so uncontaminated were the grazing pastures.  Now those commons have been turned toxic and this has forced farmers and pastoralists to sell off their livestock in distress as no one buys the milk. The leachates from these landfills flow out into the kaluves and into lakes, and eventually reach T. G. Halli dam built across Arkavathy river, from where parts of Bengaluru receive water. The cycle of contamination is completed as what is dumped in Mavallipura has found its way back as poisoned water into the city.  This is an unnecessary calamity we create with our neglect, he argued. 

Emphasising we cannot save our lakes without protecting kaluves, kuntes, and open wells from pollution, encroachment and destruction, he explained details of how the decision in ESG Lake Case  crucially highlights the interconnectedness of water with the landscape, and the importance of decentralisation of administration and devolution of power to local communities and local governments to ensure every water commons is protected for our benefit and for those in the future.  Due to the Court directives, consequent enactment of the Karnataka Tank Conservation Development and Authority Act, the Water Act and various administrative orders determining how the District/Municipal Lake Protection Committees are to assist in the governance of water bodies, it is now possible to protect all of them and restore them to good health in a mere matter of a year of two. Besides, it is essential also to find ways to conserve rainwater everywhere, through rainwater harvesting.  He suggested that if every dwelling were to harvest rainwater, then so much rain that is wasted on our streets causing flooding and destruction of life and property can be avoided, and the water can be cultivated to sustain life and good living.

For all this to fructify, Saldanha stressed the regular functioning of Lake Protection Committees is essential in every district and municipality.  If it met at least once a month, then it could report quarterly progress to the Apex Committee which then would report the progress to the High Court. This system of accountability with judicial oversight is a crucial progression in jurisprudence of environment and governance of the commons, and people everywhere need to take advantage of this and protect and conserve their water commons.  

.

Shri Leo Saldanha

Echoing the need for urgent action that Shri Salian highlighted, Saldanha identified various tasks that needed to be undertaken, such as revenue survey of all kaluves, kuntes, keres, etc. as per original maps to fix their boundaries; rehabilitating lakes on priority from encroachment, siltation and pollution; ensuring no-development zones along kaluves and lakes are protected and locally useful trees and shrubs are grown there.   Such efforts would rebuild water security and prevent farmers from distress, and provide urban communities much needed water security. That farmers of Devanahalli are now wiping toilet seats in the Bengaluru Airport is a shocking tragedy, and such skilled farmers must not be lost due to farming distress caused unnecessarily by the neglect of our water commons, Shri. Saldanha exhorted.  

He also urged local communities and local governments to work in ways to prevent the misuse of water, such as by gated communities in and around the airport which encourage a lavish lifestyle of the super-rich indulging in jacuzzis and swimming pools in every home, while the village outside is struggling for drinking water. He enquired if such projects can at all be termed as ‘development’ when it comes at the cost of water security and the livelihoods of local residents

He also drew attention to a recently published article which details how a terrible re-engineering and concretisation of raja kaluves resulted in the death of two people during the recent heavy rains in Bengaluru. Quoting Chief Minister Bommai’s recent remarks, he said of around 840 kilometres of raja kaluves in Bengaluru, 70% of it has been encroached. Various committees have identified the encroachment of water commons, such as the Joint Legislature Committee headed by Shri. A T Ramaswamy, the Lakshman Rao Committee and Balasubramanyan Committee, etc. But what really matters now is that people and local governments must get together to protect and conserve them to save present generation from water crisis, and ensure the gift to the future is not destroyed and contaminated lakes.

 For which he stressed the importance of utilising the District/Municipal Lake Protection Committees which is has oversight from District Legal Services Authority, and there is no need to rush to the High Court for relief.  “Justice has reached where people are” and people need to use this, he suggested.   To assist which ESG has initiated the ‘Vombatkere’/ 9K campaign, he informed. 

In Anekal, Smt. Janani.S, Assistant Coordinator (Inclusive Urbanisms) of ESG presented similar ideas.  Shri. Eshwarappa, Assistant Coordinator, Capacity Building- Commons of ESG coordinated all the workshops.

The Panel for the Anekal Workshop

Shri. Eshwarappa M, Assistant Coordinator, Environment Support Group, Smt. P.N Shalini, Zonal Forest officer, Anekal, Shri. Y Prakash, President, Lawyers Association, Anekal, Justice Shri. Sandeep Salian, Senior Civil Judge & Member Secretary, District Legal Services Authority (Bengaluru Rural Dt.) & Member, Bengaluru Rural District Lake Protection Committee, Shri. Narayanaswamy, CEO of taluk panchayat, Anekal, Shri. R. Chandrashekar, Assistant government prosecutor and working member secretary, Taluk Legal services committee, Smt. Janani.S, Assistant coordinator, Environment Support Group.

Administrative Challenges in Lake Protection:

Participating in the Devanahalli workshop, Bengaluru Rural District Commissioner Shri. K Srinivasa, IAS, expressed his wish to protect all lakes of the district.  He said 710 lakes have been surveyed of which 643 lakes are encroached. He pointed out that the district administration has managed to remove encroachments in 544 lakes.

Shri Shrinivas highlighted encroachment of commons is largely an action of profit seeking real estate developers, and the burden is paid by loss of biodiversity and livelihoods. If life in the lake is destroyed, our health is destroyed, he pointed out.

He proposed encroachment of lakes can only be tackled if there is strict penal action. Currently, most encroachers get away with minor penalties and return to encroach. He said he was keen to ensure the penal provisions of the KTCD Act will be applied henceforth, so that there is awareness and fear against pollution and encroachment of water commons. He also identified that with heavy rainfall in recent weeks, and months, and also water received from K&C Valley, 33 lakes in Devanahalli are full. However, kaluves and the kuntes are encroached and this is affecting water flows and maximal storage.  He advocated public involvement in lake protection activities, regular and active participation in lake protection committees, and concerted action by everyone to ensure poisoning water, air and land would be a thing of the past. 

The Panel for the Nelamangala Workshop

(L to R):  Shri. Muniraj M, Assistant Government Prosecutor & Working Member Secretary, Taluk Legal Services Committee, Nelamangala, Shri. Manjunath, Tehsildar, Nelamangala, Justice Shri. Sandeep Salian, Senior Civil Judge & Member Secretary, District Legal Services Authority (Bengaluru Rural Dt.) & Member, Bengaluru Rural District Lake Protection Committee, Shri. Mohan Kumar, Executive Officer, Taluk Panchayat, Nelamangala, Smt. Bhargavi S Rao and Shri. Leo F Saldanha.

Call for Action: 

Several panel members in the workshops encouraged the public to take action in their respective taluk. In Hoskote, Shri. Uma Shankar MH, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Hoskote, highlighted the importance of continuing the tradition of water conservation to advance water security in Bengaluru. He recalled the pristine conditions of the lakes built over the centuries and pointed out to the dumpyards they have become at present. He drew attention to the recklessness of real estate lobbies who did not care for local communities. He asked people to stand united in this fight to secure water and water commons and work with the District Lake Protection Committee, PDOs and DLSA in this regard.

 

In Nelamangala, Shri. Muniraj M, Assistant Government Prosecutor & Working Member Secretary, Taluk Legal Services Committee, reinforced the importance of lakes in securing water in the district, and called for strict implementation of criminal provisions against polluters and encroachers. He emphasised on the Karnataka Tank Conservation and Development officials must lead the way in ensuring implement of High Court directions and law becomes the norm. 

In Anekal, President of the Lawyer’s Association, Anekal, Shri. Y Prakash stressed the importance of youth participating in social movements to hold the government accountable. He also expressed the need for the public to report disposal of waste into water sources to the DLSA to prevent such activities in the future. Shri. Y Prakash extended cooperation of the legal community in protecting all water commons of the taluk.

Shri R Chandrashekar, Assistant Public Prosecutor & Working Member Secretary, Taluk Legal Services Committee, Anekal Taluk, highlighted the role of youth and their enthusiastic participation in protecting lakes. He also pointed out the importance of accessibility to water resources by all as a constitutional mandate, and said such a climate of inclusiveness will help protect and govern lakes through public involvement.

 

Every workshop was held in an interactive manner, and witnessed active involvement of the audience. In Anekal, Smt. Mamtha Yejaman of Gamana Mahila Samuha asked the panel to install a board at the premises of the lake describing guidelines for their collective use, ownership and responsibility and also punishment in the case of violations of norms and rules.

 

Collation of Actions decided by Taluk Panchayats of Bengaluru Rural District

  1. Documenting information of all lakes in every Panchyat and collating the same at the Taluk level. The information will include names of lakes, rejuvenation status, custodian/designated officer for every lake with full contact details, area of the lake as per maps, details of encroachment, and status, and placing the same in public domain
  2. Obtaining details of fund allocation for rehabilitation of lakes in all Panchayats and sharing details with the public and District Lake Protection Committee.
  3. Obtaining details of the Annual Lake rejuvenation working plans of every Gram Panchayat and sharing the same with public and District Lake Protection Committee.
  4. Preparing information on creation of Lake Protection Committees for every lake in accordance with directions of Karnataka High Court
  5. Coordinating with Forest Department in regard to raising appropriate vegetation in the no development zone of lakes and kaluves as is indicated in Justice NK Patil report and maintaining the same for a period of three years.
  6. Ensure rehabilitation of lakes and rajakaluves is undertaken as per guidelines in Justice NK Patil report 
  7. Encouraging public participation at Gram Sabha levels for the preservation, protection, rehabilitation and rejuvenation of lakes, kaluves, kuntes, and such other water commons
  8. Holding discussions on building local community capacity in protecting water commons based on traditional knowledge and wisdom and ensuring traditional livelihoods linked to lakes such as fishing, farming, cattle grazing, etc. are sustained in a way that is supportive of the lake’s ecosystem functionality.  Such discussions on lake protection to be held at least once a month.
  9. Allocate sufficient funds for minor repairs and maintenance, and rejuvenation of lakes and rajakaluves through schemes such as MNREGA and other Government schemes.
  10. Complaints and grievance redressal mechanism through an active and dedicated toll-free phone number to be made available for easy access of public, and advertise the same through various mechanisms
  11. Conducting demand based Panchayat level lake rejuvenation workshops.  

Resolution:

In the final Nelamangala workshop, it was submitted that the following resolution would be placed for due consideration and adoption by every Taluk of Bengaluru Rural District. It was decided that through the offices of the Shri. Salian, Senior Civil Judge, Secretary, Bengaluru Rural District Legal Services Authority and Member, District Lake Protection Committee, every Taluk would be asked to adopt this resolution within two weeks and report progress to the Authority/Committee.

Text of the Resolution follows:  

Representatives of appropriate departments and agencies of Local Governments and Administration of Bengaluru Rural District, in coordination with the District’s Lake Protection Committee appointed as per direction of the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka in WP 817/2008, gathered in Nelamangala Taluk Panchayat officer on 20th June 2022, herewith resolve to undertake all efforts necessary and essential to ensure that within a period of two years from today, all lakes, raja kaluves, kuntes, and such other water commons of the district would be legally surveyed, socially protected, rehabilitated in an ecologically wise manner and turn into functional wetland ecosystems.

These efforts will be guided by directions of the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka in WP 817/2008, WP 38401/2014, the Karnataka Tank Conservation and Development Authority Act, 2014, Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act, 1961, Environment Protection Act, 1986, Forest Conservation Act, 1980, Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, Biodiversity Conservation Act, 2002, Forest Rights Act, 2006 and such other laws as are applicable to the cause. 

In consideration of the above, it is further resolved that:

1)    Directions of the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka in WP 817/2008 and WP 38401/2014 and all Government orders that have ensued as a result will be implemented with all seriousness and with urgency so as to make a sincere effort to make the Bengaluru Rural District water secure.

2)    All lakes and raja kaluves, and such other water commons, will be surveyed, protected and rehabilitated following guidelines issued in reports of the Justice N K Patil Committee constituted by the Karnataka High Court in WP 817/2008. 

3)    All-District and Municipal Lake Protection Committees will function regularly, meeting at least once a month, and if necessary, more often, and attend to all issues and concerns relating to the protection and rehabilitation of lakes and such other water commons of the district. The process would be decentralised further to the Taluk levels.

4)    District and Municipal Lake Protection Committees will interact with Biodiversity Management Committees and Forests Rights Committees in advancing inclusive conservation of water commons, as is mandated by the Biodiversity Act and Forest Rights Act respectively.

5)    The District Lake Protection Committee and Municipal Level Lake Protection Committee will ensure that report on progress of work will be submitted quarterly to the Apex Committee and seek necessary directions and support as essential in undertaking the tasks listed here.  The services and advise of the Karntaka Tank Conservation and Development Authority and other regulatory authorities will be sought as and when necessary to attend to emerging issues and concerns.

6)    The District Lake Protection Committee would make every effort to ensure that officials would be available to attend to requests of the public and communities with regard to lake protection and rehabilitation in and accessible and helpful manner and also make every effort possible at the district level in resolving disputes, if any.  

7)    The support of all regulatory institutions, such as Karnataka State Pollution Control Boards, Karnataka Tank Conservation and Development Authority, Karnataka Forest Department, Minor Irrigation Department, Police etc., and also that of Local Governments – both Panchayat and Nagarpalikas, would be sought to undertake the task of protection and rehabilitation of all water commons so as to ensure health, water and ecological security of all residents of the district.

8)    The District Lake Protection Committee and all agencies of the Panchayat and Nagarpalikas will work wot ensure that pollution and encroachment of water commons is prevented, tackled per the due process of law as and when necessary, and also ensure there not be any form of discrimination in accessing these commons.

9)    In particular instances where the water commons are considered to be of ecologically sensitive nature and biodiversity rich, in coordination between the District Lake Protection Committee and Karnataka Biodiversity Board, efforts will be made to declare such wetlands as Biodiversity Heritage Sites with the local Biodiversity Management Committee appointed as the local guardian. Similarly, provisions of the Forest Rights Act would be invoked to protect wetlands with dependency of adivasis and other forest dependent communities as Community Conservation Zones.

10) All District/Municipal Lake Protection Committees will take initiative to encourage popular participation in Midwinter Waterfowl Census guided by Birdwatchers Field Club of Bengaluru and per the direction of the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka in WP 38401/2014. The collation of results of this census will be shared annually as an indicator of the biological health of lakes and other such water commons.  Similarly, in coordination with the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, all major lakes and kaluves will be surveyed at least once annually to establish the physico-chemical-biological characteristics of the waters of the wetlands, and the results shared with the public through various websites.  Further, in coordination with the Drought Monitoring Cell and Dept of Mines and Geology, all Taluks of the district will provide information about the ground water levels and also quality of groundwater suo moto to the wide public, at least once every year.

11) The Karnataka Forest Department will follow the directions of the Karnataka High Court in WP 817/2008 and WP 38401/2014 to ensure all no-development zones around lakes and kaluves are vegetated with locally relevant and endemic vegetation as a protective measure of these commons and to also build their biodiversity potential. The services of the Karnataka Biodiversity Board will be sought to ensure Biodiversity Management Committees are involved in support of such activities.

12) All communities resident in and around lakes will be supported by the District/Municipal Lake Protection Committees to form inclusive local area Lake Protection Committees in accordance with recommendation of the Justice N K Patil Committee. Such local committees will be extended all assistance to ensure they are actively involved in protecting these precious water commons from pollution and encroachment, that they are wisely utilised, rehabilitated in ecologically wise and socially inclusive ways, and that their biodiversity value is enhanced through careful use and protection.

13) All agencies of the District administration and Panchayats and Nagarpalikas will ensure to the best extent possible that rehabilitation and maintenance of lakes, raja kaluves and such other water commons will be so undertaken that it can bring communities together and produce employment for lakhs of people such as with Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Scheme and other social welfare schemes.  In this way, the District Lake Protection Committee will endeavour to tackle poverty, build public health and food security, raise environmental awareness, and promote the fulfilment of Sustainable Development Goals. 

14) The District Lake Protection Committee will take necessary steps to ensure that protection and rehabilitation of lakes and other water commons will be undertaken with urgency to tackle prevailing water stresses and to secure ecological and water security of present and future generations, and in this task be guided by the Public Trust Doctrine, Principle of Intergenerational Equity, Polluter Pays Principle, Ramsar Convention, etc., in addition to conforming with the Constitutional mandate and applicable laws, so that the rich tradition of conservation of water commons continues as a gift of the present generation to those in the future.

Each and every Taluk level administrative level of the district, and every Municipal administration of the Bengaluru Rural District, will work to ensure the objectives stated above will be undertaken in a planned and effective manner, with popular involvement of all local communities, and implemented within a period of two years from 20th June 2022. 

Background Documentation:

The slide presentation made in the workshops, which contains various details of the history and tradition of lake building and conservation, of directives of Karnataka High Court, applicable laws, administrative orders relating to establishment, roles and functioning of District/Municipal Lake Protection Committees, and other details, click on: https://tinyurl.com/Lakes-workshop-ppt

More details about environmental jurisprudence to conserve and rehabilitate lakes and other such water commons, see: https://tinyurl.com/ESG-Jurisprudence-Lakes

[This report has been compiled by Kripa Krishna, Student Intern from Ashoka University, Vikas Balu, ESG Volunteer and Anirudh Menon, Research Associate at ESG.  Shruti, Research Associate (Legal) extended research support.  Sachin Amaresh, ESG Volunteer provided documentation and logistical support. The Kannada version was prepared by Eshwarappa, Asst. Coordinator (Capacity Building – Commons), ESG.]

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